Giving Compass' Take:

• Mental health stigma is strong among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, and there is a need for better advocacy, legislation, and research-informed practice.

• How can philanthropists fund research to better support the broader AAPI community?  Why are current mental health services insufficient for this population? 

• Read about the issue of intimate partner violence in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. 

Although the US has made progress in raising awareness of mental health and normalizing conversations about the topic, a great deal of stigma remains around mental illness and poor mental health, and many still face barriers to accessing services and supports.

Among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, these issues are often shrouded by silence and shame, allowing misconceptions and minimization of mental health concerns to thrive.

But AAPIs are not a monolith. Our understanding of their mental health needs—and how we respond—should reflect the diversity of experiences within the AAPI community. Here’s what you should know about this important topic and underserved population this Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, AAPI adults report serious psychological distress at about half the rate of the US average—but there is wide variation between AAPI ethnic subgroups. Vietnamese Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders report poor mental health at rates closer to the US average than to their AAPI counterparts.

But even after controlling for prevalence of mental illness, AAPI adults seek mental health services less than any other group. They are almost three times less likely than white adults to seek mental health services for unmet needs.

Although there are clear limitations to current knowledge about AAPI mental health, as well as gaps in services, efforts are underway to advance AAPI mental health and well-being through advocacy, legislation, and research-informed practice.

As researchers, we should strive to gather meaningful and disaggregated data on AAPIs to understand the range of lived experiences and internalized beliefs that may undermine mental health or treatment and recovery from mental illness.

Read the full article about fighting the stigma of mental health among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by Cathy Hu at Urban Institute.